I've read many articles on Hillary's email issue. To me, it seems like she was just a bit careless and she has no bad intentions, and the FBI knows that. So why is it that the FBI is so persistent on further investigation to this case?

  • 10
    Looks like the FBI just re-opened the case today by the way
    – user9790
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 20:49
  • 25
    You cannot know her intentions without being her. Neither can the FBI. The FBI are Cops they are investigators, it's not their job to discover intent, it's their job to investigate and ascertain facts. It is the Attorney Generals job to decide if there is a case and what intent there was and then decide whether or not to prosecute. If the FBI are still pursuing it then they have found new evidence which they think is important enough to investigate to make sure criminal activity didn't occur.
    – Ryan
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 21:13
  • 23
    Note that "bad intentions" and "knowledge of the law that was broken" are both unnecessary for a conviction for most crimes; IANAL so I can't speak for whatever specific charges have been raised against Hillary.
    – Tin Wizard
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 21:58
  • 20
    It's not clear yet if the FBI is making "a big deal" of it. It's simply been announced that potentially related e-mails elsewhere have been found in a separate investigation, and that they are being reviewed to see if action is called for. The Trump campaign and news media outlets are where "a big deal" is being made -- so far. The FBI most likely simply wants to maintain an appearance of transparency to avoid later charges of 'cover-up'. Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 2:29
  • 3
    she used 13 different devices during that period for sending emails. Doesn't sound so much "I didn't know what I was doing" case.
    – DroidDev
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 12:18

8 Answers 8


Why is the FBI making such a big deal out Hillary Clinton's private email server?

Because she:

  • Violated laws and rules by using personal email server
  • Performed actions that risked classified information being exposed
  • Violated laws and rules by deleting emails (importantly, by violating Freedom of Information Act, basically eliminating ability for citizens to determine if she did anything wrong)


  • Executive Order 13526 and 18 U.S.C Sec. 793(f) of the federal code make it unlawful to send or store classified information on personal email.

  • Section 1236.22 of the 2009 National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) requirements states that: “Agencies that allow employees to send and receive official electronic mail messages using a system not operated by the agency must ensure that Federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency record keeping system.”

  • Violation of the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA)

    Veterans for a Strong America has filed a lawsuit against the State Department over potential violations of FOIA. Joel Arends, chairman of the non-profit group, explained to the Washington Examiner that their FOIA request over the Benghazi affair specifically asked for any personal email accounts Secretary Clinton may have used: “'At this point in time, I think we're the only ones that specifically asked for both her personal and government email and phone logs,' Arends said of his group's Benghazi-related request.”


she has no bad intentions

  • First of all, they do not know that 100%. Absent a functional mind-reading technology, knowing someone's intentions with certainty is impossible.

    Having said that, there is absolutely no legitimate excuse[1] for a government official to set up a private email server for their work. Anyone in that position ought to just use corporate (government in this case) email, the way 99% of the American workforce who emails do - there's just zero reason not to.

    [1] - Yes, i'm aware that some people make an argument that the "reason" was "government-issued blackberry can only use one email account". However, she didn't need to use a second work-related account; and no government regulation prohibits having a personal cell phone for access to personal email, therefore this does not constitute legitimate excuse. "I Wanna, and it's more convinient" is an excuse that is not legitimate even for teenagers, never mind government officials.

    For reference, in many industries, sending material non-public information over non-corporate email is grounds for termination for cause.

  • More importantly, commission of a crime is not contingent on intentions. If I go, and with good intentions, commit a crime, I would still get arrested and convicted (although in some cases, intentions might impact on the sentencing, they do not impact on the verdict).

  • 45
    "there is absolutely no legitimate excuse to set up a private email server OTHER than with bad intentions" -- This is inaccurate. It is well documented that her staff repeatedly requested a secure government portable device, similar to one used by the President, that she could use in her office and on her many trips abroad, and the NSA refused to assist the State Department with this request. Then she started using her Blackberry, linked to the private server, to communicate with State Dept. aides. Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 5:24
  • 9
    @BaardKopperud Comey said during his testimony that classified emails WERE sent / received. Your "confidential" argument is a red herring and irrelevant. Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 15:50
  • 22
    This is a good answer, except for the "other than bad intentions" point that others have mentioned. There are plenty of misguided intentions that are not malicious. That one, bolded, capitalized line moves this from a good, unbiased answer into Clinton-bashing, because it implies (with no evidence) that she was intending on doing something improper with it (beyond the illegality of the server simply existing).
    – Bobson
    Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 19:14
  • 23
    there is absolutely no legitimate excuse to set up a private email server OTHER than with bad intentions - you just said that it's impossible to know intent, yet you've ruled out any possible good intent? Besides the mentioned Blackberry reason, I used to work for a government agency that had an abysmal email system - 10 MB of mail quota, no attachments (at all), poor calendaring (no free/busy, etc), no mobile device (not even POP/IMAP) support. My department set up a private email server because it was so much better than the official server, paid for personally by a department head.
    – Johnny
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 0:31
  • 10
    This answer is clearly biased. It uses two source - one is an opinion piece on a centre-right news site (IJR's founders describe it as such), the other does not claim what the answer claims. Her use of a private server likely broke government policy (and thus may be subject to sanctions), but does not break law (hence why Comey said as much in his initial conclusion). Her deletion of private emails (that weren't work-related) don't conflict with anything, including policy, with the worst claim made by anyone important being that a few work emails may have been mistakenly deleted.
    – Glen O
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 7:18

Setting aside the question of whether Clinton is legally culpable, the FBI has confirmed that the servers constituted a data spill of classified information, the extent of which is presumably currently classified. One of the FBI's duties is investigation and mitigation of domestic data breaches and spills, which can take a significant amount of time and manpower depending on the scope of the spill, far beyond the decision to take legal action against the person who caused the spill.


There are two distinct problems that exist here: the use of a private email server to execute the business of the Department of State and the introduction of classified material into an unclassified system. Each must be addressed in apart from the other.

Use of a Personal Server
While not inherently illegal, there is a significant appearance of impropriety in using a system segregated from the government information architecture to perform the official work of the State Department. While she was Secretary Clinton, the use of a private email server acted as a bulwark against Freedom of Information Act requests. Additionally, since she failed to turn over her records promptly on departure from office, she didn't meet the Requirements of the Federal Records Act.

Spillage of Classified Material
This is independent from the use of a private email server. It would be a violation of applicable doctrine to introduce the same information onto an unclassified Government System. The reproduction of classified material, whether transcribed from gained knowledge into emails, scanned from hard copy, or some how digitally transferred across the air gap between classified and unclassified systems, is wrong regardless of the lack of classified marking. Classified material does not become unclassified if produces fail to append the appropriate markings or allow it to exist unreported on an unclassified system.

Why the FBI cares
Failure to abide by applicable doctrine is a problem within the FBI's bailiwick. Further, the highlighted systemic problem in properly handling classified material within the State Department also must be addressed. Were we not on the cusp of an election, there would be less strife over the ongoing investigation.


You said:

To me, it seems like she was just a bit careless and she has no bad intentions, and the FBI knows that.

She was rather a lot careless. Here's what Comey said when he recommended not to prosecute:

there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

Note the word "extremely" in that, not "just a bit".

To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who gauged this activity would gauge no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions but that is not what we are deciding now.

So after he said that a prosecution was not supported by the current evidence (which others dispute), he pointed out that this was still a serious violation. Note that security sanctions could include loss of the security clearance, and administrative sanctions could include loss of the job.

She had a legal responsibility to familiarize herself with the rules for handling classified material so that she could process it responsibly. She failed to do that, not even being able to recognize material marked with a C (for Confidential) as classified material. At one point, she requested that the classified markers be removed from a document and had it sent insecurely (via fax not email; the email contained the instructions).

Presidents can access classified material

Presidents have to be able to access classified material, which would normally require a security clearance. However, Hillary Clinton might not get a security clearance now due to her previous failure. The only jobs with access to classified material that she could possibly get without a security clearance would be president or vice-president.

This is rather a big deal and doesn't require further investigation to establish. It's a known fact that her handling of classified material was not up to standard.

The new emails could show

The new emails could include statements that contradict the testimony that Huma Abedin gave previously. Or they could contain classified information that Anthony Weiner could have accessed (since he shared use of the device with his spouse, Huma Abedin). Or they could contain absolutely nothing not already seen. That's why they do an investigation to determine what impact these emails would have on the previous investigation. The investigation won't necessarily show anything, but finding additional information that could be pertinent still requires an investigation.

Why Comey had to tell Congress

Previously, Comey had testified to Congress (under oath), that the investigation was closed. That had become untrue. As a result, Comey said that he felt it necessary to notify Congress.

Note that if he hadn't notified Congress, it is quite possible that one of his agents would have felt that it was necessary to share that information, either with Congress or the media. Then he would have reopened the investigation (which Democrats hate), allowed a leak (which no one likes), and failed to notify Congress (which Republicans would have hated). Or the information could come out after the election, which would really annoy Republicans and leave Democrats unhappy at the reopening of the investigation.

At least this way, he's only hated by Democrats. And their complaints are somewhat limited in that he only notified Congress. It was Republicans in Congress that made that information public, not Comey.

  • The president has a security clearance by default. Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 18:29
  • Maybe, but the president doesn't apply for it and it can't be suspended or removed without removing the president from office.
    – Brythan
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 18:44
  • 7
    @AlexanderO'Mara (C) does stand for Confidential, which is a control level for Classified Material. Unclassified, Unclassified//FOUO, Confidential, Secret, Top Secret, Top Secret//Special Access Programs, etc. Avoid making definitive statements on things you don't fully understand. Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 15:09
  • 3
    @AlexanderO'Mara That the classified material contained in her emails was not properly marked doesn't stop it from being classified material. That classified material was introduced into her email with the portion markings intact, as in with (C), is comical. Spillage is spillage, no matter level of the classified material exposed. Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 15:35
  • 8
    @AlexanderO'Mara In the answer, it says "Clinton doesn't know what C stands for." The NEXT SENTENCE says she wants those markings she doesn't understand removed. How can you not know what they mean THEN request they get removed? ... I know what C stands for (Cookie, Confidential). You know what it means. SHE knows what it means. She's not THAT stupid. She is that much of a liar.
    – WernerCD
    Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 15:51

Why is the FBI making such a big deal out Hillary Clinton's personal email server?

They aren't presently.

Or at least, they don't appear to be anymore, even with recent events.

They were doing their job by investigating the issue, which was then a "big-deal", but they completed their investigation in July, stating:

no charges are appropriate in this case

-- FBI Press Release

At present, that statement is still the official position of the FBI.


Since originally posting this answer, recent events in relation to the emails the FBI was reviewing in respect to an investigation into Mr. Weiner have concluded. The FBI reported that no new relevant emails were found, and their previous conclusion still stands.

In-fact, NBC reports that nearly all of those emails were actually duplicates.

A senior law enforcement official confirmed to NBC News that nearly all of the thousands of newly examined emails on Weiner's laptop were duplicates of emails already seen by the team investigating Clinton's server. [...]

There were unseen emails, the official said, but they were unrelated to government business.

The new letter indicates that the FBI's review is completed. Neither Comey nor the FBI are expected to release any other statements.


What are these new emails?

Good question!

In an unrelated case, specifically an investigation into Mr. Weiner, some of the emails found on a laptop belonging to Mr. Weiner are thought to possibly have some relevance to their completed investigation into Hillary's use of a personal email server. However at this point, it has not been made clear what these emails would be, or why they would be on this person's laptop.

But that's about where the current news ends. The FBI has not yet even reviewed these emails to know if there are even new emails they have not previously reviewed. For reference: New York Times article, referencing a letter by the FBI

So it seems the real question is:

Why are they making an announcement that they might have new information to investigate?

Also a very good question, one asked by many in politics, both Democrats and Republicans. It seems that FBI Director James Comey decided to send a letter to Congress to notify them that they may have access to new information without knowing what it is, against the advice of Senior Justice Department officials.

At this point it should be noted that the FBI does not normally make announcements on ongoing investigations, and many have criticized him for breaking this precedent in this case. It is still unclear if he intended to meddle in the election or not, or if he has further intentions.

So has the investigation been reopened?


Though there are certainly those trying to spin it to seem like it has, the investigation into the use of a personal email server in respect to classified information has not been reopened, and unless there is significant new evidence found, there's no reason to expect it will be.

So why is this unsubstantiated find in the media?

Not surprisingly, the Republican presidential campaign has jumped at this tidbit the FBI has dropped. The subject of the email server has been a recurring topic throughout the campaign, despite the conclusions of the justice system. This unsubstantiated bit of information is being used to try to validate what has essentially been dead horse beating, again with no knowledge as to what is even contained in these emails.

So what was the big deal with the emails before? Why was she being investigated?

She was being investigated for possible violations of the storage of classified information.

Our investigation looked at whether there is evidence classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system, in violation of a federal statute making it a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way, or a second statute making it a misdemeanor to knowingly remove classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities.

-- FBI Press Release

Note that they are not investigating if classified information was stored, just if it was mishandled intentionally, or in a grossly negligent way. In this case, intent and gross negligence is relevant, and one of these must be proven for there to be a case here.

Now if either of these could be proven, this would be a serious issue, and and thus this investigation was worthy of being a "big deal", but again this investigation concluded that neither of these were the case.

For reference:

Title 18, Section 793, (f):

(f) Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, [...] or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer— [...]

Title 18, Section 2071

(a) Whoever willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, or destroys, or attempts to do so, or, with intent to do so takes and carries away any record, [...], document, or other thing, filed or deposited with any clerk or officer of any court of the United States, or in any public office, or with any judicial or public officer of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

(b) Whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or other thing, willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; and shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States. [...]

(Abbreviated and emphasis added.)

But why use a personal email server if not for some nefarious purpose?

There is actually a well-documented technical problem for which the personal email account was setup to solve, and it's actually kind-of a sad issue. The government-issue BlackBerry device can only use one email account (yes, the all but forgotten BlackBerry, which many would no longer consider a maker of smart devices). I think most of us would agree it's unreasonable to have access to just your work email throughout the day (I certainly get mission-critical email in my personal email), and the only other alternative would be to carry two whole devices to work around this issue.

You can argue all you want about how she should have just used 2 devices or whatever, and in hind-sight she openly agrees that she should have, but this is not the issue the FBI was investigating so let us not get side-tracked.

Also, remember not to assume malice when intentions are unknown. This certainly fails the philosophical principal of Hanlon's razor:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.


Don't assume bad intentions over neglect and misunderstanding.

Personally, I think any "smart device" which can't handle multiple email accounts is actually a pretty stupid device.

Just think, if we must start assuming malice when intentions are unknown, we must also assume that Mr. Comey sent this letter simply to meddle in the election, and this whole thing falls apart very quickly.

But I desperately want her to be guilty of something!

That's not a question, but if the voting on the hopefully highly-factual answer is any indication, this is quite-possibly true for some for you (if not, please post a comment or suggest an edit, this question desperately needs a solid answer without the speculative and slanderous baggage found above). But remember, it is not your place to decide if she is guilty or not, the justice system has already made their decision, inline with what the FBI investigation concluded.

  • 2
    Since new information has possibly come to light, the July 16th Statement may be old hat; the September 2 FBI release would be a stronger reference in either case. The News hasn't ended; we're waiting to see if there is another shoe. Bias represented by "all reasonable measures has failed," without citation. Intent is not required in regards to mishandling classified material. Documentation does not erase requirements, to include applicable oversight and FOIA responsibilities, for .gov information assurance. No government issued BB was used. Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 4:07
  • 3
    If a government Blackberry had been issued, there may be Information Assurance restrictions on linking that device to non-.gov sources, in order to minimize the risk of third party intrusion into the system. It may very well be a feature, rather than a flaw. Convenience is not a sufficient excuse to violate proscribed doctrine. Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 4:09
  • 2
    @DrunkCynic "Intent is not required in regards to mishandling classified material." I cited an investigation saying it does...
    – Batman
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 4:09
  • 2
    @DrunkCynic Until there is more news, the present news is at an end. There is nothing more to share. But you're arguing semantics at this point.
    – Batman
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 4:12
  • 3
    @Alexander O'Mara"it's actually kind-of sad..." It is not even a little sad. It called security. They are only allowed to access a single account known to be secure. Allowing access to unsecured accounts would make the device insecrue (just ask Podesta.) Further Directory Comey testified before congress that she routinely used multiple insecure devices. This was clearly an end run around the "freedom of information" demonstrated by the destruction of 33,000 emails. Wikileaks claims to have these emails. This is CYA for Comey.
    – WayneJ
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 16:52

Possibly three main reasons:

  1. It is the FBI's duty to do so as a law enforcement and intelligence agency as described in their Mission statement.
  2. To deter others from being careless with secrets.
  3. To protect their reputation in the light of this becoming such a hot topic in the public domain.

Because they can? There are clearly laws and regulations concerning classified material and Hillary Clinton used a private Email server likely mainly in order to sidestep certain documentation and information retention duties that are a hassle when doing a job description like "Secretary of State". In the course of doing that, there was significant danger of exposing state secrets without involving the assigned personnel for mitigating the danger, personnel that would have some ties to the FBI level of administration.

So the FBI is annoyed. In addition, the FBI always has been angling for more power since its inception. With a confused law-and-order-and-God-with-us president like Trump they'll be better off than with a president that, while not seeming adverse to wielding power in her own right, is likely to strike a harder bargain for letting others exert their share of power.

Now make no mistake: Clinton has given them cause to investigate. However, that they do so in the most obnoxious manner available to them is their own choice, and that they seriously deploy double standards here (they are going after a particular smoking gun–and smoking it is, make no mistake–in a battlefield of infractions all over the tightly regulated place) the same.

If you take a look at the amount of investigation and propaganda invested into the set of Clapper, Holder, Clinton, Snowden, Petraeus, Kiriakou and the respective penalties dealt for violations of their respective duties and oaths and see whether anybody even bothered with investigating or punishing open violations of the law, you'll find that there is an astonishing amount of leeway regarding when laws are applied in what degree if at all (I am not comparing Clinton here to people who sacrificed their career and freedom to their oath on the Constitution: this list is merely there to illustrate double standards).

I have little enough sympathy for Clinton here. Nevertheless, the powerplay that the FBI chooses to indulge in selectively with regard to this case in particular while collecting brownie points for not messing with others in worse circumstances is simply distasteful and serving the goals of the FBI itself rather than either government as a whole, administration or the public.

The resulting voter disgust will ultimately not likely thwart the Clinton presidency since Trump is, well, Trump. However, it will make pretty sure that the House will fall to the Republicans solidly "in compensation" and that the political stalemate in Congress will continue. And a vacuum of power is the best precursor for the FBI extending their power with fewer checks against them.

  • 3
    "used a private Email server likely mainly in order to sidestep certain documentation and information retention duties" There is actually a documented technical problem this was meant to solve, that the government issue Blackberry only supports one email account.
    – Batman
    Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 12:20
  • 1
    @AlexanderO'Mara - and she's only supposed to use one email account. So there's no problem to be solved there.
    – user4012
    Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 12:29
  • 2
    @user9923 Using your work email for all of your personal emails now, are you? Are you saying you never get anything mission critical in your personal email? Besides, you've already stated you baseless speculation on intentions in your answer.
    – Batman
    Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 12:41
  • 3
    @AlexanderO'Mara Did she ever use a government issued Blackberry? Did she ever use a Government sanctioned system? Is she not surrounded by a number of people that could carry a pair of Blackberry's for her? Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 15:06
  • 2
    @AlexanderO'Mara Review your sources: she didn't use a Government Issued Blackberry. All mobile devices she used were furnished separately from the government system; if she used a government issued Blackberry, it would have been linked to a government managed email account, which she did not use while Secretary of State. Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 15:21

To answer the question most directly, the FBI is supposed to pursue investigations doggedly. To "make a big deal" is the right answer for the FBI if they must investigate a serious charge. So the implied question is about the seriousness of the charge, and so forth, the nature of the activity in question.

To answer somewhat less directly, the reason that government business is supposed to be conducted on government machinery is to fulfill transparency requirements. personal machinery is not covered under most of the same regulatory regime as the government-owned stuff, and so the burden is laid upon government personnel to use government gear. Regardless of the personalities in question, this requirement seems reasonable and clear-cut.

Obvious, intentional, high-level steps to circumvent these reasonable safeguards of our Republic are worth investigating on the face of it. Note that this is independent of whatever misdeeds may drive that sort of evasive behavior -- on which I believe the FBI is silent.

  • 5
    The problem with this answer is that we just discovered this week that the recent news is just the opposite of 'serious' and that the FBI director is now being scrutinized.
    – user1530
    Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 18:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .